With over half a century of experience in the audio industry, Westone are an American manufacturer whose products range from the hearing healthcare market to military communications as well as the music and audiophile industry. Located in Colarado Springs, their high-quality custom in-ear monitors have been purpose built for a wide variety of applications allowing them to maintain a strong foothold in the ‘In-Ear’ market.
Their flagship product, the Westone W80 V2 (subject of this review) combines eight balanced-armature (BA) drivers with a dual bass, dual mid and quad high configuration. To uphaul the W80 into modern standards, Westone have incorporated a Bluetooth cable V2 to provide a high-fidelity wireless listening experience.
At $1499, the Westone W80 V2 IEMs are by no means cheap and represent a sizeable investment for those seeking audiophile-grade sound.
The Westone W80 V2 monitors come in a rather spacious packaging with a white insert which slides out to reveal an orange box. Inside, there is a rather large carrying case with multiple compartments housing many different accessory items. It is clear that Westone have thought about the unboxing experience carefully and it is certainly a product of flagship status.
Also included is an ALO Audio Reference 8 (Westone Edition) cable, a Bluetooth Cable V2 Powered by Qualcomm aptX HD audio, 5 different pairs of STARTM Silicon Tips, 5 Pair True-Fit Foam Tips, exchangeable metal faceplates, cleaning cloth, wax removal tool and a premium small zippered carrying case.
Build & Design
The Westone W80 V2 adopts a low-profile design with a chassis designed to maximize ergonomic performance. The MMCX connection port is angled sharply away from the ears allowing these monitors to only be worn in over-ear format. Overall, the Westone W80 V2 offers a small and streamlined design which is quite impressive considering it packs in eight balanced armature drivers.
The majority of shell is made from a plastic material with exchangeable metal faceplates (available in blue, gunmetal grey, gold and red colors). This is a unique feature allowing quick customization of the appearance of the monitors straight out of the box. While the choice of plastic material may not wash with those seeking more premium materials, the W80 V2 are undoubtedly lightweight aiding a comfortable listening experience.
The Westone W80 V2 incorporates a total of eight balanced-armature drivers in a three-way crossover configuration. It is quite possibly the smallest monitors for its eight-driver configuration. Two drivers are used for the low frequencies, two for the midrange and four drivers for the treble. Westone have rigorously matched the left and right ear pieces for an exceptional ‘tight tolerance’ and uniform response.
Fit & Isolation
Being leaders of the hearing market industry, Westone understand the importance of fit and long-term comfort. The Westone W80 V2 IEMs are an example of this with their carefully constructed ergonomic shell. The flattened underside and streamlined finish rests nicely against the conchae of the ear while the angled MMCX connection directs the cable away from the ears.
A thin long nozzle is used to support the ear tips which provide a secure insertion. As a result, the W80 monitors offer superior isolation amid ambient noise.
In collaboration with ALO Audio, the Westone W80 V2 comes equipped with a high quality eight-braided cable with SPC (silver-plated copper) and OPC copper wires. The cables are sheathed in a transparent plastic shell and terminated in a L-shaped jack with MMCX connections. The Y-split is a uniform single piece of black plastic shell and the over-ear portion is covered in an adjustable plastic covering.
The cable handles well and is lightweight like the monitors themselves. However, one noticeable downside is that this cable is particularly prone to microphonics (detectable noise when the cable is moved at all). This could be something that both Westone and ALO Audio could look into in a future revision of the product.
New to this edition, is the QualComm aptX HD audio Bluetooth Cable V2 which allows listeners to exploit the W80 V2 sound in a more convenient way. Granted, it is not a ‘truly wireless’ listening experience but it avoids the experience of being tied down to a portable DAP or smartphone. The cable comes with tactile buttons with a central power button that can be used to play/pause a track and answer phone calls.
The power button can also be double pressed to activate any AI assistant and long pressed to be turned on or off. Either side, users are able to control the volume via the volume keys. The Bluetooth Cable V2 also comes with its own charging dock which extends battery life up to 12 hours in between charges.
The Westone W80 V2 has a naturally smooth tonality which rests on the warmer side of the neutral spectrum. Its frequency response is largely balanced with a slight uptick of lower midrange frequencies. This results in vocals which are more intimate in the foreground/background mix while still retaining good layering and overall separation.
Despite its musically-inclined and smooth signature, the Westone W80 V2 has a more BA-orientated low-end tuning with its faster decay and articulacy. However, the bass still retains a degree of warmth and analog tonality owing to the use of larger balanced-armature drivers.
There is a good level of sub-bass extension with good weight supporting the low-end frequencies. However, the Westone W80 V2 does not possess the greatest level of macro-dynamic slam or impact. Instead, the tuning aligns itself well to those with inclinations for reference tuning without wishing to sacrifice natural low-end heft and extension.
The Westone W80 V2 offers a fatigue-free listening experience with its smooth midrange which demonstrates some warmth in a relatively linear presentation. There is a slight bump in the lower midrange which pushes vocals more upfront and intimate in the overall soundscape while allowing different components of the track to maintain their space and separation.
As a result, the imaging is quite unique with its relatively intimate midrange in the midst of spacious sonic cues. The W80 V2 maintains a good control over artefacts and sibilance with little in the way for grating frequencies or shrill sounds. There is also good weight behind vocals and the W80 does not have typically thinner note size as some other balanced armature monitors possess.
The downside here is that while W80 V2 does demonstrate some transparency and clarity to its vocals, it is not at the level as some of its competitors. Luckily, the W80 V2 does respond to tip rolling and ear tips such as Shure’s Olive or SpinFit’s CP100s add a certain degree of crispness to notes.
In line with the rest of its frequencies, the W80 V2 delivers a smooth, linear and fatigue-free treble. It inherits the foundations of a good balanced-armature treble with its speed and decay while still maintaining an overall natural and pleasant tonality.
Again, it does not possess the utmost in details nor the most sparkle or air in its arsenal. However, its agreeable character works well across a range of genres causing little offense in its leading-edge transients.
Personal preferences wise, I do wish there to be some more sparkle to instill greater bite to its top-end.
Soundstage & Imaging
The Westone W80 V2 presents a more intimate vocal presence with decent projection of sonic cues in the elements of width and depth. There is also good levels of separation which is aided by its multiple balanced-armature configuration.
InEar ProMission X ($2099)
Both the Westone W80 V2 & InEar ProMission X offer some of the best ergonomics for a universal monitor of their driver configuration. The W80 V2 hosts eight balanced armature drivers whereas the InEar ProMission X incorporates ten.
They both render a fairly easy-going sound with the ProMission X having a tendency towards a more liquid sonic delivery whereas the W80 V2 exudes a more natural and a warmer side of neutral sound.
Of the two, the ProMission X exacts more detail and clarity but is lighter in presence and more delicate in timbre next to the W80 V2’s larger and smoother notes.
Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020 ($1099)
The Andromeda 2020 is a revised version of the original widely acclaimed Andromeda in-ear monitors. It hosts a total of five balanced-armature drivers compared to the W80’s eight. Both share a similar frequency response with a largely balanced sound with a bump in the lower midrange and prominence of lower treble.
However, the Andromeda 2020 while smoother and less contrast-heavy compared to its original, still retains more sparkle than the Westone W80. The Andromeda 2020 also retains its open and diffuse sound which stretches slightly further than the W80 V2.
Westone have opted for a pleasant and inoffensive tuning in the W80 V2 which works well across a range of genres and fans of reference and smooth tonality will be pleased. It is a safer tuning, however, and those looking for more bass/treble contrast should consider looking elsewhere.
The true utility here is the ability to go ‘wireless’ with the inclusion of the Bluetooth V2 cable. This certainly gives users a chance to experience higher-fidelity sound without being attached to a digital audio player or source device.
The overall packaging of the Westone W80 V2 is excellent and it is great to see the inclusion of a deluxe carrying case with spades of interior space to house all the different accessory pieces. With Lucid Audio’s recent acquisition of Westone, it will be interesting to see what the parent brand has next in store…
Westone W80 V2 Specifications:
Sensitivity: 111dB SPL @ 1mW
Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 22 kHz
Impedance: 5 ohms @ 1 kHz
Passive Noise Attenuation: 25dB
Driver: Eight Balanced-Armature Drivers